Violent Hotel Terror Attack In Mali: Victims From Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, And Possibly France
It happened at the Hotel Debo in Sevare, Mali this morning. 3 Russian pilots are thought to have been kidnapped during an attack on a hotel in Mali.
Seven are dead. No confirmation if also tourists were among foreigners killed this morning in Mali during a terror attack by Islamists terrorists.
Since Mali is considered unstable, it's more likely foreign victims were in Mali on business. Five foreigners have been evacuated and a "number" of hostages freed after they were trapped by gunmen in a hotel standoff with soldiers in central Mali early Saturday.
A military source said Malian Special Forces had rescued the hostages, including five foreigners who were evacuated to Bamako. the capitol of the country. Tourists or foreign nationalities are currently unknown.
The attackers had stormed the hotel, frequented by foreign visitors and troops, at around 7:00 am (0700 GMT) Friday.
Malian forces cordoned off the area but their efforts against the gunmen were made "sensitive" by the presence of hostages, a military source said Friday.
It was not clear how many people were still being held by the attackers. Member of the U.N. peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) were also staying in the hotel.
The government statement Friday evening gave a provisional toll of "five dead, two injured" on the Malian army side and "two killed" on the insurgent side. Seven suspects had been detained.
The U.N. mission said it had sent a Malian rapid response team from the capital Bamako -- 620 kilometers (385 miles) to the south -- and "reinforced the security of Sevare-Mopti airport".
Apparently the initial target of the attack was a Malian military site.
The clashes between the attackers and Malian security forces continued throughout the morning and sporadic fire continues at the hotel and in the neighborhood.
It is unclear who the foreigners who were being held are, though the governments of Russia and Ukraine confirmed earlier they each had a national among the hostages.
A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Mali told RIA Novosti state news agency that the Russian hostage was an employee of UTAir, an aviation company which works with the U.N. peacekeeping mission.
A Ukrainian hostage managed to escape from the "four or five terrorists" who were still barricaded inside the hotel, telling soldiers that he had been with three South Africans and a Russian when the shooting began.
French President Francois Hollande said French citizens could also "possibly" be caught up in the attack, while South Africa said it was "aware of the situation".
Situated only a few kilometers from the regional capital Mopti, Sevare is a key staging post on the road to the desert north which fell to extremists in 2012.
France has more than 1,000 soldiers in northern Mali as part of an regional anti-terrorist operation.
It was the third assault in just a week in Mali, which is still struggling to restore stability despite a landmark peace deal agreed in June to end years of unrest and ethnic divisions.
A number of foreigners have been kidnapped by Islamist militants in Mali in recent years, at least two of whom are still being held hostage by Al-Qaeda's front group in the region AQIM.
Attacks have spread since the beginning of the year to the center of the country and in June to the south near the borders with Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.